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Saline, Michigan Memorial Day Parade: Message from the Grand Marshal, Maj. Gen. Andrew Juknelis

Good afternoon, veterans, Honorable Mayor Brian Marl, citizens of the great city of Saline, families, and friends. Thank you for inviting me to participate in the wonderful return of the Saline Memorial Day parade for the first time since 2019.  I want to say a special hello and thank you to the Commander of American Legion Post 322, David Saims, and the Commander of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 310, Stan Harrison.  Thank you for being here today to support your communities and our country.  And thank you, Mr. Tim Driscoll for your efforts to coordinate this parade and ceremony.    What a beautiful day!

I am humbled and deeply honored to be here.  In 2007, I was assigned to the 300th Military Police Brigade down the road in Inkster and deployed with them to conduct military detention operations in Iraq.  That’s how I came to meet one of my best friends, Col. Eric Engelmeier, while we worked together over the year that followed.  I was new to the unit, I wasn’t even an MP, and I can say without reservation that you would have been so proud of the service of your fellow Michiganders. These good people, many members of the U.S. Army Reserve and the Michigan Army National Guard, really made a difference in the overall effort and a positive impact in the lives of the Iraqi people. If any of you 300th MP Spartans are here today, I look forward to seeing you again and thank you for taking me in, then and now.

Of course, Memorial Day is about much, much more than honoring the veterans and servicemembers who live among us.  Since 1868, we have come together in our communities, towns, and villages around the world, to place flowers and flags on the graves of those Americans who have given their last full measure of devotion to the United States and the Constitution. On this Memorial Day, Americans honor veterans who have served this great country and especially remember those who have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom. From across North and South America to the Middle East, from battlefields in Europe and Africa, Vietnam, Korea, and throughout the Pacific, they fought and sacrificed so others might live in peace, free from the fear of tyranny and aggression.

Today, our hearts are full of thankfulness and pride as we reflect on our Nation’s enduring heritage of liberty under law and on the continuing expansion of democratic ideals around the globe.

The official birthplace of Memorial Day is considered to be Waterloo, New York, which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866.  They hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of Soldiers with flowers and flags. Originally known as “Decoration Day” in the years following the Civil War, it became a federal holiday in 1971. What started as an event to honor those lost during the Civil War, Americans in various towns and cities began holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen Soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers. Once the United States became embroiled in World War I, the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, followed of course by World War II, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; sadly, just to name a few.

One such Soldier was 19 year-old Spc. Christopher T. Monroe from Kendallville, Indiana.  This eager and enthusiastic unit supply specialist, beloved among his friends and fellow Soldiers, had deployed to Iraq as part of the 785th Military Police Battalion from Fraser, Michigan. As part of an important military police mission, on October 25, 2005, he escorted the remains of a deceased detainee from Camp Bucca to Talil Air Base for autopsy.  On the way back, his convoy stopped to render aid to a civilian victim of a car accident.  That’s the kind of guy he was.  Doing his duty, helping others.  Unfortunately, he was struck and killed at the scene by another vehicle driven by a private military contractor.  The unit and of course his family and community, were devastated to learn of this tragic, non-combat fatality. He had hoped to become an MP and get promoted to sergeant, and although he didn’t get to see that happen, he is known to everyone in the 300th MP Brigade as Sgt. Monroe.  They say there are angels in our midst and young Christopher was certainly one of them.  I wanted everyone here to know about him, he is here in your midst, an American Soldier doing his duty, taken too soon, and you would have all been really proud to know him.

While we observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, decorating the graves of Soldiers with flowers and flags, holding family gatherings and participating in parades, please remember and pray for the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country, dedicated to the worthy cause of freedom.  Not one of them died in vain.  God bless you all and may our American heroes rest in peace. In the words of the great General George Patton’s Soldiers’ Prayer: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived!” Thank you for your reverence and patriotism.


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